I’m a massive fan of racing games, and whether it’s a single category like F1 or a multi-spec game like Gran Turismo, there’s nothing better than taking to the track and getting a few others to eat your dust. And yet despite my affections for all things racing, there’s always one category that I gravitate toward when playing something like Gran Turismo or Project CARS, and that’s the GT3 races. They’re the only cars I’ve won with when playing GT and PCars online, they’re the ones I spend hours developing my own liveries for, and the ones I always look out for when picking a lobby to race in.
So when it was announced that Assetto Corsa Competizione, the GT3-only follow up to the original Assetto Corsa game, would be coming to consoles it was an extremely exciting moment; excitement which turns out was more or less entirely justified.
It’s worth pointing out that Assetto Corsa Competizione is a pretty no-frills racer. It’s not the prettiest game you can get on the current generation consoles, and while it doesn’t look bad by any means the difference between this and the likes of GT or even Driveclub are pretty stark. Replay options are thin on the ground, meaning after a hard fought online race you can’t see a replay once you’re suddenly and instantaneously teleported back to the pits ready for the next race, and those of you who like to mess around with a photo mode are going to be gutted, given the lack of camera options or free movement on the view. The livery editor is incredibly basic too (and, in my experience, doesn’t work too well either) so you won’t be able to do a great deal beyond picking a premade pattern and change a couple of colours.
But the racing. My god, the racing. If you want intense, challenging and brilliant racing, you’re in the right place.
Starting off on the career mode, you’ll be dropped into a Lamborghini at Monza at put through your paces in a range of different conditions, which leads to you joining the team of your choice from the likes of McLaren, Aston Martin and a range of others. Your career then moves on through a range of races and events, with times qualifying and races giving you a different kind of race to those which give you a set number of laps. There’s plenty to get used to, from the rolling starts that you need to control, to compulsory pit stops, but the biggest thing you’ll be watching at first is all the data the game collects about you at every single moment on (or off) track.
The idea of the early stages of the ACC career is to teach you that driving safely, cleanly and carefully is more important to start with than driving fast. Light up your rear tyres out of every corner, drift round corners and spend time cutting through the gravel and you’ll put a dent in your ratings, leading to your engineer getting annoyed with you and various suggestions on how to improve. With this system carrying across to online racing as well you’re not getting into the better, cleaner lobbies without proving your worth when it comes to tidy racing. That said, when it comes to online racing ACC doesn’t seem to have attracted the kinds of racers who are out to just cause chaos. I’ve had a fair few races online, and apart from one race when one of the drivers was either out to cause trouble or just a terrible driver, the racing has been firm but fair, This isn’t a game for casual racers, and while it works brilliantly with a standard controller without needing a full wheel setup, I can’t see many people picking this up if they’re not interested in “proper” racing. That’s good news for online races.
Oh yeah, and a nod to the sound. I use the bonnet cam as I do on most racing games I play, and the sound through a decent set of headphones or speakers is insane. Between the rough growl of your own engine to the rumble of curbs, the scrapes of your car against others, it sounds brutally brilliant. Even the stadium announcers in the background which talk about the last race and where the series has already been racing, it’s fantastic. I’d go as far as to say it’s easily, easily the best sound I’ve heard in a console racing game. Find a way to crank it up without upsetting the neighbours and you’ll love it.
To me then, when you’ve got a game where the racing is as good as this, the fancy extras don’t really matter. I’ll be honest, I miss the replays, the ability to watch a whole race or even just segments of it back after a close hard race, but for a GT3 racer this is extremely good. If you picture the annual argument between FIFA and Pro Evo football games you’ll get a good idea of how this works – Gran Turismo is the FIFA of racers, full of beautifully renders cars, endless liveries and replays that you can pause and adjust to your heart’s content, and yet at times the racing can feel a little sterile, and there’s no end of knobheads online. But sat alongside is Assetto Corsa Competizione, the Pro Evo of racers. Yeah the menus aren’t overly easy to navigate at times, the game isn’t as pretty and the bells and whistles have been missed out, but the actual gameplay and racing itself? Awesome.
So if, like me, you’ve been hankering for a racing game that gives you close, clean and intense racing both online and offline, and you’re happy with sticking to GT3 cars then Assetto Corsa Competizione could be the game you’re looking for. Work at it, get your safety rating up, and you’ll see a whole new world of racing in the more advanced lobbies, and finally get to experience what proper online racing is all about.
Reviewed on PS4